Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Student Nurses (1970)

          Featuring what may be the only combination abortion/acid-flashback scene in all of world cinema, The Student Nurses is nearly a credible movie, despite the obvious come-on of the title. Made for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, The Student Nurses has all the hallmarks of a late ’60s/early ’70s exploitation film—fashionable anti-Establishment rhetoric, plentiful nudity, swaggering young people who think they’re equipped to change the world. However, the picture wobbles between salaciousness and seriousness, occasionally running aground in sequences that feel like they belong in other movies, such as love-ins and riots. The culprits behind this undisciplined storytelling are Stephanie Rothman, who directed, and Charles S. Schwartz, who shared producing and writing chores with Rothman. Both were prolific laborers in Corman’s B-movie factory, but neither ever made anything of real distinction, although The Student Nurses was a big enough success to inspire a string of “sexy nurse” movies.
          The Student Nurses follows the adventures of four pretty young women who room together while completing their nursing educations. Each gets into a hassle of some sort, so the women help each other out of jams and learn life lessons along the way. Lynn (Brioni Farrell) stumbles into a social crisis involving heavily armed Latino activists; Phred (Karen Carlson) gets involved with a gynecologist and wrestles with squeamishness over morally complicated medical issues; Priscilla (Barbara Leigh) has a tumultuous romance with a hippie drug dealer; and Sharon (Elaine Giftos) bonds with a terminal patient. Tonally, the movie is all over the place, featuring such random events as an acid trip, an attempted rape, a colorful Day of the Dead celebration, a diatribe about food preservatives, and a meet-cute predicated on the ordering of vegetarian dishes.
          The vibe is very much Valley of the Dolls, only without quite as many histrionics, because Rothman and Schwartz try to play their material straight. Had the lovely actresses cast in the lead roles delivered better work, The Student Nurses might have come together as a snapshot of a turbulent time in history. Alas, because the leading ladies are mostly ornamental—their willingness to disrobe having been a prerequisite—the film’s higher aspirations are never realized. Still, the mere presence of such aspirations makes The Student Nurses more palatable than most films designed to accentuate the sex lives of coeds. FYI, costar Giftos—who also appeared in the 1970 Corman production Gas!—transitioned from this movie to a small-screen project set in the same milieu, costarring in the 1970-1971 TV series The Interns.

The Student Nurses: FUNKY

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